Belfast Telegraph

Most negatively viewed groups include Travellers, Roma and asylum seekers

Prejudices still exist towards Travellers, Roma and refugees despite an improvement in social attitudes, according to Equality Commission

Travellers, Roma and asylum seekers are among the most negatively viewed groups in Northern Ireland, according to new research.

Even though the Equality Commission survey revealed an improvement in the public perception of those from the lesbian, gay or transgender community, it found prejudices towards other minority groups including refugees and migrant workers still exist.

Chief commissioner Dr Michael Wardlow said: “While it is encouraging to see this overall reduction in negative attitudes, it seems some prejudice remains deep-seated here in Northern Ireland, particularly with regard to those from a different race or nationality.”

The Social Attitudes and Perceptions of Equality Survey found positive attitudes to lesbian, gay and bisexual people were up from 57% in 2008 to 83% in 2016.

For transgender people, positive attitudes increased from 48% in 2011 to 78% in 2016.

However, one in four of those questioned said they would mind working alongside a Traveller, and a third would mind having Travellers as neighbours or an in-law.

Dr Wardlaw added: “The results of this survey raise interesting questions about changing attitudes to difference in Northern Ireland – and about some prejudices which are apparently harder to shift.”

The survey also found further prejudice against people with mental ill health.

One in 10 respondents said they would mind someone with mental ill health as a work colleague, while 11% would mind them as a neighbour and 14% would mind them being an in-law.

Dr Wardlaw added: “Half of those surveyed think that no groups are treated more unfairly than other groups in Northern Ireland. This could suggest that respondents did not see equality as being relevant or important at the time they answered the question.

“In the Equality Commission, we know from the 3000 plus calls we take every year about potential discrimination that equality remains a live issue and that people do feel they are discriminated against because of who or what they are.”

The Equality Commission carried out similar studies in 2005, 2008 and 2011.

Dr Wardlow said: “We know that our attitudes towards other people affect how we behave towards them and that negative attitudes can lead to negative behaviours – that is why it is important that we track social attitudes here in Northern Ireland.”

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